We regret to pass on that 2 Fire Technicians at the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station in Antarctica died yesterday following an incident at a generator building that powers a radio transmitter near the station. The incident, which still is under investigation, occurred on Dec. 12 local time (McMurdo Station keeps New Zealand time).
NSF is not releasing any personal information about the deceased at this time. Their next of kin have been notified.
The Technicians (non-firefighters_ were performing preventative maintenance on the building’s fire suppression system. They were found unconscious on the building’s floor by a helicopter pilot, who landed after seeing what appeared to be smoke coming from the structure. They were removed from the building and CPR was administered. One person was pronounced dead at the scene by medical personnel who arrived from the McMurdo clinic. The other was flown to the McMurdo clinic and pronounced dead there a short time later.
The workers were employed by PAE, a Virginia-based subcontractor to Leidos, the Colorado-based logistics contractor to the NSF-managed U.S. Antarctic Program.
ABOUT McMURDO FIRE SERVICE
McMurdo is the largest community in Antarctica and home to the largest of three U.S. fire departments. That department runs two shifts, which cover the base and its two airstrips, or “ice runways.” At McMurdo, a heated garage holds standard fire trucks and a tanker. The airstrips are served by a full aircraft rescue firefighting (ARFF) station with two crash vehicles, Renegade vehicles and fire pumps. These vehicles are outfitted with tank-type tracks rather than tires.
All McMurdo Firefighters rotate in on a six-month or one-year contract and serve a population of scientists and Air Force personnel that can swell to 1,100 in the “high season”—the Antarctic summer that begins in mid-October. Temperatures during the summer have been known to reach the low 30s, but in winter, the thermometer routinely drops to 80 below zero or colder.
The Antarctic Fire Department is based at McMurdo Station. It is the only full time fire department in Antarctica. The department maintains two fire stations at McMurdo: Station 1 is at central McMurdo and Station 2 serves the station’s airfields. The Station 1 fleet consists of two fire engines, a water tender, an ambulance, a rescue vehicle, and a SCAT (Self Contained Attack Truck) firefighting vehicle.
The Station 2 fleet consists of an ambulance and seven ARFF (Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting) vehicles, which are fully tracked to handle the deeper snowcover that surrounds the runways. Station 2 apparatus is distributed and dispatched to different airfields depending on the current flight activity.
During the Antarctic summer (October-February), McMurdo’s population is at its highest, and the Antarctic Fire Department maintains a staff of about 46, including 21 firefighters (the other personnel being dispatchers, lieutenants, and command staff). In the winter (February-August), McMurdo’s resident population declines to 200 or less and the Antarctic Fire Department staffing decreases to twelve.
Members respond to fires and fire alarms, the department handles medical calls, hazmat spills, odor investigations, assists, dive emergencies, and other tasks as needed (including herding seals and penguins off runways for incoming flights). Department dispatchers monitor all off-base foot travel, and all off-base vehicle movements during extreme weather.
HERE IS MORE ABOUT THE FIRE DEPARTMENT
ABOUT THE FIRE DEPARTMENT:
ABOUT LIVING/WORKING IN THE COLDEST PLACE ON EARTH:
Our condolences to all those affected. Rest In Peace.
More To Follow.